Sunday, July 24, 2011

Chamorro participant in the Liberation of Guam

Imagine seeing your home island of Guam being re-taken from the Japanese, but from behind American lines.  Jorge "George" Cristobal, born in Hagåtña in 1918, the son of Adriano and Carmen Untalan Cristobal, had spent several years at Waseda University in Tokyo, having been fascinated by Japanese language and culture, and then joined the US Navy.  Many people knew him as "Boy Cristobal."


Boy Cristobal was interested in studying porcelain making. Accompanied by his mother and an uncle, who was a dentist, Boy sailed for Tokyo in 1935. He was just in time. Had he waited a few more years, it would have been harder for him to move to Japan, as relations between Japan and the U.S. grew more and more tense.


By 1939, things became very worrisome. The war in China against the Japanese was well underway. Japan was entrenched in Manchuria and skirmishes broke out even between the Japanese and the Russians.

Boy was advised to return home to Guam.

When he returned he enlisted in the U.S. Navy.

Unlike almost all the other Chamorro men who joined the Navy, Boy did not end up being a mess attendant, cleaning tables and dishes. Because he was fluent in Japanese, Boy was assigned other work. He was to work in intelligence, using his Japanese language skills to assist in monitoring activities in Japan. Obviously, he could not do that work on Guam so off he went overseas.

He was at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed on December 7, 1941.  When the U.S. was making plans to re-capture Guam, they knew they could profit from Boy's knowledge of the terrain of his native land and of the Japanese language.  He was transferred to the Marines and was with them during the liberation.  Always on the lookout for his family, he was with a search patrol one day and convinced a Marine not to shoot at a suspected Japanese figure in the distance.  It turned out to be Cristobal's father, who looked surprised at Jorge's Marine uniform, asking, "Son, I thought you joined the Navy!"  Jorge was an interpreter on Guam during the war crimes trials following the war.  Jorge passed away in 2009.

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